But back to you.
The day I saw you walking along the dirt trail, it was hot. Do you remember? You were dressed in black pants, a long-sleeve black shirt, and a hat. It seemed like an odd choice for such a hot day. You turned around and we made eye contact, making it more difficult for me to decide what to do. I didn't want to offend you by turning around but I was also afraid to run past you.
Sometimes even offering to help can seem threatening.
When you said good morning, I didn't respond because I was out of breath. I was running fast—as fast as my legs would carry me, actually. I wanted to get around you and away from you, just in case. I'm sorry I didn't say good morning. I hope you understand.
The day you came up behind me on your bike, you were just being friendly. I know that now. When you said “nice” as you passed me, a thousand thoughts went through my head before the next word followed. In that moment, I wished I was a huge football player with the strength to push you off your bike. I wanted to make you feel fear and pain. I was ready for your words to make me feel gross for wearing tight shorts that day. Then you said “pace” and instantly I felt remorse for wanting to hurt you.
Thank you for that compliment. I was running fast that day, wasn't I? I didn’t mean to be, but I began to worry that I’d gotten too far from home and I was low on energy. When I get low on energy, I worry—not because I'll have to walk, but because I'm concerned that, should things go south, I won't have what it takes to fight someone off.
Remember that day you were out running, blowing off steam? You saw me up ahead, your eyes never leaving me, so I averted my gaze—something I do often when I pass men. You said hello and I didn't respond. I should have said hi, but I was worried that if I did, it would seem inviting. I wasn't sure why you were staring at me.
You cursed me out because I was quiet. When people are silent, it's often for a reason. I didn't deserve those words. I wonder, do you speak to women you know like that? Or just women you don't know? Either way, you scared me that day. I wanted to tell you that you were frightening me, to leave me alone, but the car incident I mentioned above taught me to run from people like you.
Then there was the day I fell off my bike. Thank you for asking if I was okay. You looked friendly and I thought it was nice that someone cared enough to pause and check on me. Here's the thing, though: Even if I was hurt, I would have told you I was fine. I immediately texted a friend, not to tell her of the fall, but because I wanted you to see that I had a phone. I know it sounds crazy, and it is, but the world is a crazy place and sometimes even offering help can seem threatening.